Ever since I became a teacher, I have sort to improve my practice by way of further informal research into topic areas that may impact my professional effectiveness. Early in my career I engaged in professional development on topics such as behaviour management (with Bill Rogers), project- and problem-based (with Intel), website design, webquest design, action research and so much more. What is this type of ad hoc research strategy reminiscent of? After doing some reading and reflection, I believe that my professional practice has seen me develop skills in design-based research, as a facilitator of professional improvement. The image below shows the difference between traditionally adopted research and design-based research practice.
The way that I approached research was very much to figure out the exact nature of the problem I was facing in the classroom and to then do some internet research to develop solutions for these problems. Behaviour/classroom management was of course a big issue for me in those early days and determining the main source of the problem was of course not easy, however, the students’ engagement and motivation proved to be a big factor in it. I sort to explore more technically innovative ways to facilitate students’ learning opportunities to increase their motivation and engagement with the subject, creating Webquests and projects that would give them more autonomy and ownership over their learning.
My work towards finding a solution was not quick, and to be honest, I never mastered it of course, but I tried many different strategies and tools, both technical and pedagogical, to test and refine what might work best. I always learned a lot from these experiences, and I still do this kind of research in the various roles I have taken since my first classroom teaching position.
I believe that no learning experience is complete without critical reflection and that is part of the design-based research paradigm, and the catalyst for it becoming a cycle that restarts based on critical reflection.